Cigar Aficionado

Patroon, New York City

The power dining scene in New York rarely shifts. The Regency Hotel for breakfast, the Four Seasons restaurant for lunch, The '21' Club for dinner are as essential dining spots for the upper levels of business and politics as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are tourist meccas. Every so often, a determined restaurateur takes a stab at joining the venerable institutions. Almost always, they come up short. But a new restaurant called Patroon, overseen by the former chairman of the board of '21', Ken Aretzky, is making the most serious run in years at gaining admission to the inner circle of power eateries.

Patroon, which refers to landowners during the Dutch colonial era of New York, occupies the old premises of Christ Cella, a longtime steak house that went out of business in 1995. The 46th Street location is within easy limo rides of most of the Midtown banking and publishing houses and the United Nations. Aretzky and his investors preserved the feel of Christ Cella, refurbishing the small downstairs bar and keeping the low ceilings and light fixtures in the dining rooms. Upstairs, however, has been transformed into an intimate cigar lounge, with a humidor room filled with 250 private lockers. There are also rooms for private dinner parties, including the "airplane" room, which has a mural of fighters from the Second World War.

The food is a far cry from "lite" cuisine; the menu is filled with robust dishes. For starters, the smoked duck sausage with sage polenta is outstanding, as well as the foie gras on a pear and bok choy compote. Steaks are a formidable part of the menu, with a wood-grilled porterhouse for two selling at $75. A prime sirloin steak comes in at $35. There are some interesting combinations, too, such as roasted quail with quinoa. In homage to Aretzky's '21' Club association, Patroon also serves a $23 hamburger with crisped onions.

The wine list has been put together with the expertise of Glenn Vogt, who also manages the restaurant and earned his wine stripes at Crabtree's Kittle House, a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning restaurant in Westchester County, New York. The list doesn't offer up many bargains, but there is a full roster of the top wine producers from every major region in the world. Check out a Le Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1970 for $1,600, or a 1961 Château Latour for $2,075. The "finds" include interesting wines from the Loire Valley and Alsace, but there's plenty to choose from in New World regions, especially California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

What sets Patroon apart from virtually every other restaurant in America today is its cigar menu. It runs three pages, and includes such brands as Arturo Fuente, Puros Indios, Partagas, Macanudo, La Gloria Cubana, Ashton, Avo, Padron and Davidoff. Prices aren't cheap, but there are cigars you'll have a hard time finding at retail: a La Gloria Cubana Torpedo No. 1 for $28, an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic for $24, a Padron Aniversario Exclusivo for $30 and an Ashton Cabinet No. 8 for $21. And, you can sit back in a leather chair with an entire humidor room staring you in the face.

Aretzky is very excited about how well the restaurant is doing. He's preparing a rooftop addition, where he'll serve sandwiches and hamburgers during the warm months, providing yet another place for people to smoke.

--Gordon Mott

160 East 46th Street
Phone: (212) 883-7373
Dinner: About $60 per person, without wine